This was the first day of the rest of his NFL life, and the first day the quarterback who has been wearing No. 10 with such pride and professionalism across 15 seasons for the New York Football Giants undoubtedly could hear the footsteps, however distant they may be, of the young man who was wearing the red No. 8 outside 1925 Giants Drive.
The legends of the fall all become fall guys, and whenever his awkward day of reckoning arrives, Eli Manning will at least be able to take a tiny measure of solace in the knowledge he will one day be passing the torch to someone who has all the respect and admiration in the world for him, to someone he already knows and likes, to someone everyone seems to like … to someone who wasn’t even 7 years old when Eli Manning first showed up:
The quarterback who was wearing the red No. 8.
If there is one young franchise quarterback who can make the final days of Manning’s Hall of Fame reign any less awkward, your first impression had to be that it is the quarterback who was wearing the red No. 8. It is hardly the reason general manager Dave Gettleman drafted Daniel Jones with the sixth pick. But it sure doesn’t hurt.
“The goal is certainly to win Super Bowls.There’s no doubt about it, that’s the goal, to win multiple Super Bowls like Eli has,” Jones said. “I think Mr. Gettleman, coach Shurmur, certainly Mr. Mara and Mr. Tisch, they all expect that. I’m looking forward to that.”
Jones will have to be deemed ready to supplant Mr. Manning first, of course, and without a No. 1 receiver and a capable defense, what’s the rush? And it wouldn’t be considered an upset if that’s what Jones calls Mr. Manning when they meet.
“We both want the same thing, we want the Giants to win football games — whatever the plan is, I’m here to do that,” Jones said. “I understand my role is to learn from him, and I’ll certainly be focused on improving myself every day.”
Jones hasn’t only learned at the Manning Passing Academy. He has learned at the Manning Political Correctness Academy. Same easy demeanor, same drive, same commitment, same poise, same toughness. It is too early to tell whether he will hijack teammates’ cellphones and change the language on them to Chinese.
But while it is a compliment for observers to immediately label him Young Eli, or Eli Jr., do not underestimate Daniel Jones. He is his own man. And we should let Danny Boy be his own man. And the Giants want Danny Boy to be his own man.
“When we went through the process, we were very certain that he would be his own man, that’s why we picked him,” coach Pat Shurmur said. “We were very certain that he could handle the scrutiny that comes with being the quarterback of the New York Football Giants. There’s a lot of attention. There’s a lot of passion for what we do, and especially for the guy that plays that position. We’re very certain that he can handle it.”
Jones looked his many television interviewers in the eye, hands clasped behind his back. He smiled an awful lot inside the field house before practice, revealed thathe talked with fellow Dukie Zion Williamsonabout joining him in New York, comfortable in his own skin.
If he is a young man in a hurry, he hid it well. He won’t rock the boat. Manning will be singing “Me And My Shadow.”
“He certainly has a routine, and there’s a reason he’s had that success,” Jones said.
MetLife Stadium — Eli’s House — served as a backdrop to Jones’ first practice on a cloudy, damp afternoon. An assortment of approximately 40 shutterbugs and media types watched his every move. Jones was 8-of-14 in the 11-on-11 drills and lofted a pretty bomb to rookie receiver Darius Slayton. The ball came out of Jones’ hand easily.
“This is a very accomplished, very talented, very smart young man that gets it,” Shurmur said.
Jones is not a statue.
“A quarterback’s mobility is very, very important in today’s game,” Shurmur said.
The quarterback who was wearing No. 8 was asked why No. 8. He joked, “Old Kobe, I guess.”
Today, Danny Boy. Tomorrow, The Mann.